Manchester Thunder 69 Leeds Rhinos 45: Thunder prove too strong for brave Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos put in a brave display but were defeated 69-45 by unbeaten Vitality Superleague leaders Manchester Thunder in front of a 4,000-strong crowd at the AO Arena on Saturday.

The home team dominated the first quarter, taking a 21-8 lead which the visitors never really recovered from.

As the match wore on, Rhinos began to show some fatigue after Friday’s tough win over Severn Stars and Thunder looked ever more comfortable, helped by outstanding performances from player of the match Shadine van der Merwe and shooter Grace Mvula.

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Rhinos showed stern resistance despite the scoreline, with their Mancunian captain Jade Clarke leading from the front, but an upset win always seemed out of reach for the Yorkshire side.

FULL STRETCH: Leeds Rhinos' Vicki Oyesola, left, in action against Manchester Thunder on Saturday. Picture: Stephen Gaunt/Touchlinepics.com.

Speaking after the game Rhinos’ Brie Grierson explained how difficult it was to play the league leaders on their home turf.

“That was really tough,” she said. “Thunder are a really classy side and they put up a really strong performance against us. We had some great patches but we couldn’t sustain it for the full 60 and they could and unfortunately the scoreline reflects that.

“So we’ll go back to training, work on it and we’ll see them again when they come to Leeds.”

“These Arena games are amazing,” she added. “Last week, as a Leeds girl I got to play in the first direct Arena, something I never thought I would do, so that was something really special and now we’ve got to back that up again here this week by playing at the AO Arena.

Leeds Rhinos' Jade Clarke in action against Manchester Thunder. Picture: Stephen Gaunt/Touchlinepics.com.

“I just think that’s where the sport needs to go. Playing in sports halls just doesn’t do the game justice any more so the more teams that we can get into big arenas like this the better.”

Thunder head coach Karen Grieg said: “I think we came out like a steam train and that first quarter was unbelievable.

“It was hard for Rhinos to go back-to-back. They took a great win against Stars and I think they got a little bit tired towards the end, which enabled us to push on.

“Overall I was just really proud of how our girls performed because they certainly asked questions of us.”